After 50 years of being sentenced for a murder they didn’t commit Brian Anderson and Allan Woodhouse are free. Now they are speaking out about being wrongfully convicted.
“The justice system needs to change,” Woodhouse told reporters at a press conference outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
“We wasted our time behind bars for things we didn’t do. We got to stop that,” he said.
The two men were originally convicted of the killing of Ting Fong Chan, a restaurant worker stabbed to death near a construction site in 1973.
On Tuesday, Court of Kings Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal told Anderson and Woodhouse that they were innocent and deserved acquittals.
Now, the men gathered with Innocence Canada and Indigenous leaders at a press conference to call for change in the Canadian justice system.
James Lockyer, a lawyer with Innocence Canada told reporters that similar cases were underway that deal with people who were wrongfully convicted.
“We’re very concerned that there are other Indigenous people in jail just as they were. Whether it’s because they forcibly confessed [due to] the abuse by police or whether they were convicted through other forms of racism, there’s really no doubt that there were other [innocent] Indigenous in our jails,” he said.
The two men were teenagers when they were arrested and charged. They are not both in their 60s. Woodhouse and Anderson said that police threatened and intimidated them into signing false confessions.
One of their lawyers, Jerome Kennedy said that language was also a barrier for the two men. Both of whom spoke Anishinaabemowin.
“These cases revolved around alleged confessions,” said Kennedy.
“Not only did they not have the opportunity to speak in their own languages and not be provided with interpreters, they testified at trial in English.”
Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, from the same community as Allan Woodhouse said that this case hits home for her. She called on all levels of government to work with Indigenous people to create real change.
“Change will not come without action, change will not come without first nations people front and centre leading the change First Nations people need. We are the experts on systemic racism as we are the targets of it,” she said.
Woodhouse and other advocates also agreed that there needed to be compensation for what these men had gone through
“No amount of money is going to change this but it will make the end of their lives easier,” said Woodhouse.
Moving forward, Allan Woodhouse said it won’t be easy to adapt to life outside prison. He offered advice for anyone currently serving time while innocent.
“We are free people but we have to claim our own freedom, we got to do it ourselves, no one is going to hand it to us,” he said.